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The demand for information security professionals is expected to increase by 53 percent through 2018, according to a Stanford University study. However, many cyber security jobs are unfilled, especially senior-level positions where vacancy rates are more than 50 percent.

If you’re an IT professional looking to move up the ladder and snag one of those vacant – and extremely lucrative – information security positions, you’re probably considering a graduate cyber security degree.

So should you major in cyber security or specialize in cyber security? While many universities offer a Master’s in Cyber Security or an MBA with a cyber security concentration, what degree should you choose to further your education and increase your earning potential?

Major or Specialize in Cyber Security: The Degree of Differences

According to a SANS Institute report, just 30 percent of cyber security professionals have a master’s degree, so whether you obtain an MBA or a Master’s in Cyber Security, you’ll stand out to the top firms in the industry. 

[link to Why the Top Cybersecurity Firms Want You to Have an Advanced Degree]

The primary difference between the two degrees is breadth versus depth. An MBA provides a broad education across multiple business disciplines –including finance, management, e-commerce and marketing – while keeping students up to date with cyber security courses. This would suit those looking to build their soft skills and leadership acumen, as well as their technical know-how.

A Master’s in Cyber Security provides deep knowledge in information security and hones in on that specialty. This would best suit those professionals who want to become subject-matter experts in their field, fulfilling that vital specialist security role.

Your professional aspirations and how you plan to leverage the degree should determine the program you choose.

An MBA with a Cyber Security Concentration

The primary benefit of an MBA is the business, managerial and leadership training it provides in addition to the information security education. An MBA program will examine the financial and business implications of cyber security.

If you want a career in management, executive leadership or entrepreneurship within the information security sector, an MBA provides well-rounded education and training. It provides the broader leadership training and soft skills that are essential for C-suite roles like the CIO or CISO.

It also gives you flexibility. If you’re not sure of the career path you want to take or if you think you may shift direction later in your career, the multidisciplinary program can make transitions easier. Additionally, gaining skills and knowledge in entrepreneurship could allow you to establish your own cyber security firm down the track.

One drawback is the popularity of the degree. An MBA is one of the most common graduate degrees, which means more job candidates will have similar qualifications. Likewise, you may need an undergraduate degree in computer science or particular certifications in addition to your MBA to get a high-levelcyber security position. To combat this, make sure you choose an MBA that offers specializations in cyber security or information security to ensure you stand out from the crowd.

A Master’s in Cyber Security

A Master’s in Cyber Security provides high-level training that dives deep into the information security field. Core classes focus on network security, cryptography, ethical hacking, digital forensics, privacy and other specialized topics.

While an MBA will examine leadership and policy, a Master of Science in Cyber Security is focused on theoretical and practical security training. If you’re sure you want to go into high-level cyber security and become an expert in the field, a master’s degree in cyber security may be the route for you.

A master’s degree will allow you to keep learning about new technologies and stay up to date on the latest trends in your field.

A graduate degree is a great path to advancement in the cyber security field. Both an MBA and Master of Science in Cyber Security will help you reach senior-level positions. The degree you choose depends on whether you want business and financial components with your education or more specialized training.

To find out more about different degree programs in cyber security, and whether you should major in cyber security or specialize in cyber security, explore your options here.

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Major in Cyber Security or Specialize in Cyber Security: What are My Options?